The Geology of Choosing Your Race – Part 2

By Debbie
October 20, 2015 on 2:13 pm | In Community, Employee Adventures, Life at, Races, Random Musings, Sponsorship | No Comments

This blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Liz Miller. As you start looking towards next season and your race selections, you might want to take more into account that just the race course. Liz’s expertise as a geologist gives us some insight into some other areas that might be of interest in your perfect race quest. Check out Liz’s blog or follow her on Twitter – FeWmnLiz.

A little while back, I wrote a blog post called “The Geology of Choosing Your Race.” This is once again a slight departure from the typical blogs found on, but in an attempt to combine two of my passions (geology and triathlon), how about a look at some of the most “geologically-interesting” IRONMAN® and IRONMAN 70.3® races around the world!

IRONMAN® New Zealand

I spent 3 weeks backpacking around New Zealand almost 10 years ago, and I would jump at the chance to go again – it’s a beautiful country with friendly people and TONS of interesting geology. New Zealand is unique in that there is a plate boundary that essentially splits the country in two – the north island and north part of the south island are located entirely on the Australian Plate, and the rest of the south island is located on the Pacific Plate. This plate boundary “dissection” makes for exciting geology!

Tectonic setting of New Zealand, taken from Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

IRONMAN® New Zealand takes place in the town of Taupo, which is centrally located on the north island. The town is located in the Taupo Volcanic Zone, which has seen ongoing volcanic activity for about the last 2 million years. Lake Taupo, where the IMNZ swim takes place, lies within a caldera (Spanish word for “cooking pot”; in geology it means depression or bowl). This caldera was formed approximately 27,000 years ago when a huge eruption took place – so much material was erupted from below the surface that the surface essentially collapsed to form a large bowl, and water eventually filled in the depression to create Lake Taupo.

Lake Taupo, the picturesque location of the IMNZ swim, taken from

The Taupo Volcanic Zone is the world’s most productive area of recent volcanic activity; most of the rocks that are erupted in this zone are rhyolite and have a very high silica content. These rocks are chemically similar to granite, but they solidify above ground rather than below ground. The youngest and most well-known volcano in the Taupo Volcanic Field is Mt. Nguaruhoe (which translates to “throwing hot stones”), which served as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Mt. Nguaruhoe is a composite volcano, which is made of alternating layers of lava and volcanic ash; it started forming only 2,500 years ago, and the most recent eruption took place in 1975.

Mt. Nguaruhoe in the clouds. Photo taken by author in 2006.

IRONMAN 70.3® St. George

A race that doesn’t require a transcontinental trip and yet still has some spectacular geology is St. George. The bike course of St. George takes athletes through Snow Canyon State Park, which contains both sedimentary AND volcanic rocks. The two major rock units at Snow Canyon State Park are the ~200 million year old Kayenta Formation and the overlying Navajo Sandstone (age dating of the Navajo Sandstone is difficult due to a lack of fossils). The Kayenta formation is mostly sandstone, siltstone, and shale (the latter rocks are similar to sandstone, just a little finer-grained); rivers and streams deposited these units.

Mudcracks are just one indication that an area was once subjected to frequent wetting and drying, such as what is found in a river and stream environment. The author recently found this rock with textbook-type mudcracks while hiking in Utah (awesome Pearl Izumi running shoes for scale)!

The Navajo Sandstone contains massive cross-bedding that were deposited in “eolian” (i.e. windy) environment – these were essentially HUGE sand dunes, indicating that the environment during the deposition of the Navajo Sandstone was very similar to the modern-day Sahara Desert. The lower part of this unit is red, and the upper part of this unit is bleached white, resulting in a surprising color contrast in this desert landscape.

Petrified sand dunes in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah. Taken from, photograph by Lance Weaver.

In many places within Snow Canyon State Park, volcanic rocks overlie the sedimentary rocks; these rocks are more resistant to weathering and essentially work to hold the lower sedimentary rocks in place by preventing erosion.

IRONMAN® Wisconsin

Have you ever wondered why IM Wisconsin has SO MANY HILLS? Well, you can blame it on the glaciers! Starting 1.7 million years ago, the Ice Age began. During this time, large ice sheets (essentially very large glaciers) formed in Canada and began moving south throughout North America. Madison, Wisconsin, and much of the IM Wisconsin bike course are located in an area that was covered by the Green Bay Lobe of the Laurentide Ice Sheet 25,000 to 10,000 years ago.

As glaciers and ice sheets advance, they incorporate rocks, dirt, and other material. Glacial debris and movement works to shape the landscape over which the glacier is flowing. One common feature that is formed is a drumlin, which is an elongated hill in the shape of an inverted spoon or half-buried egg. The formation of drumlins is still not entirely understood, but they are believed to be a combination of both depositional and erosional processes acting at the interface between the glacier and the underlying surface. Drumlins are one source of hills on the IM Wisconsin bike course.

An aerial view of drumlins. Each of those little ridges is a drumlin, which translates directly into a HILL on the IM Wisconsin course. Taken from

The other source of hills is the result of glacial melting and retreat. Glaciers act a lot like a conveyor belt – as material is picked up, much of this material is moved to the bottom and edges of the glaciers. As the climate began to warm, glaciers started to move back towards the poles, where the weather was colder. This material is commonly deposited as an end moraine, which is a ridge-like deposition of debris at the very end of the glacier. In addition, because glaciers don’t retreat all at once, they also commonly deposit recessional moraines, which are end moraines that mark each of the “rest stops” that the glacier took as it retreated. You can blame most of the hills on the IM Wisconsin course on these end and recessional moraines!

All of the dirt resting between the lake in the foreground and the glacier in the background will eventually turn in to a terminal moraine when the glacier retreats. Picture taken by author during the 2005-2006 McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica field season.

I’m sure that on race day, most of us will be too focused on racing to appreciate the geology that surrounds us. But be sure to allow an extra day or two post-race to enjoy the beauty that is often found along many race courses!

Note: IRONMAN® and IRONMAN 70.3® are registered trademarks of World Triathlon Corporation.

Triathlon Travel Tips

By Debbie
August 18, 2015 on 4:41 pm | In Community, From the shop, Life at, Product Information, Races, Random Musings, Sponsorship | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Team pro athlete Scott Bradley. Some of you are fortunate and have a ton of races close to home from which to choose your season schedule. But for the rest of us (um, open water in Tucson…no), we need to travel to get in a good season of racing. Here’s some great travel advice from someone who has done it a lot. You’ll want to take notes for your next race! Check out Scott’s blog and follow him on Twitter – @scottbradley11.

Travel seems to go hand in hand with racing triathlon. Unless you live in an area where there are lots of races and you are happy doing them year after year, at some point you’re going to have to pack up and hit the road to get to a race. If you’re like me, that’s part of the fun of it. Triathlon has taken me to places I never would have dreamed of otherwise going and I’ve loved each place I’ve had the opportunity to visit. Each city or town is unique and interesting in its own way and the courses offer different challenges.

As much fun as it is to see new places and race new courses, it doesn’t come without its share of difficulties. I’ve tried to compile a list of some of the things I’ve learned from travel experiences to help make yours go a little more smoothly.

  1. Carry on. If you are flying, anything that you absolutely need to have with you for your race should go in your carry on bag. Let’s face it, suitcases get lost and things can get damaged when you check your luggage. I can comfortably fit all the race gear I need in a transition bag that I keep close to me the entire trip.
  2. Pack light. That being said, you don’t want to lug a 40 pound bag through the airport. The minimalist approach will be best. Spend some time deciding what gear you will actually need and what you’d end up not using. Leave that stuff at home.
  3. Research ahead of time. Find out where you can eat healthily and affordably. When you arrive at your destination and are starving because all you had on the flight was the world’s smallest bag of pretzels, you will not want to spend time searching for restaurants. And you don’t want to settle for fast food that will give you gut rot in the days before your race. Having a plan will make your life easier.
  4. Hydrate. Bring your own empty water bottle that you can fill up once you pass through security. Maybe bring some Nuun tabs to make sure your electrolytes are replenished, as well.

    Hydration & snacks...don't be without!

  5. Pack snacks. I like to have some healthy snacks on hand so when I get hungry I don’t have to run into the first gas station I see. Fruit, nuts, healthy granola bars or some Honey Stinger waffles are easy to carry and make a great quick snack.
  6. Nail down your bike transport method. There are many different ways to get your bike to a race when flying, each with its own pros and cons. I have used companies like TriBike Transport. It’s great to not have to lug your bike through the airport and convenient if you live near a partner shop, but you might end up being without your bike for a couple of weeks before and after your race. If you only have one bike, that’s not good. I’ve sent my bike via FedEx to my hotel. Again, nice not to lug the bike, but you are without it a few days again. This year, because of the amount of traveling I will be doing, I’ve decided to get a good travel case to fly with and bring my bike myself. Be prepared, though, to rent a much larger vehicle than you would need if not traveling with your bike. Find what works for you and what will make you most comfortable.

    How do you take your bike?

  7. Rest up. Travel can be exhausting. It disrupts your routines and normal sleep patterns. Hotel beds are not always the most comfortable, either. Add in pre-race nerves and you might not be getting the best sleep before your event. I’m blessed with the ability to sleep anywhere, so if I feel tired I let myself sleep. Naps during the day, on the flight, or in the car (unless you’re driving) all add up and can help make you feel rested, which is one of the biggest contributing factors to having a good race.
  8. Keep your routines. As much as you can, try to keep things as consistent as possible. The time you go to bed and wake up. Your food habits. Go for an easy swim or jog if possible. All of these things will help make you feel more like you are at home and will bring you some comfort and peace of mind.

Triathlon can be a great way to travel and see the world. It isn’t always easy, but you can certainly make it less stressful with proper planning and preparation. A certain amount of flexibility and adaptability is required, and you can’t let things out of your control throw you into a spiral. Hopefully these tips can make your race travel a bit easier and more enjoyable. Safe travels!

Refocusing After a Disappointing Result

By Debbie
August 4, 2015 on 1:11 am | In Athlete Profile, Community, Races, Random Musings, Sponsorship | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Team athlete Kevin Portmann. We’ve all had a disappointing race, so what do you do when you have a hard time shaking off that feeling of failure so you can move on towards your next event? Here’s some advice from someone who recently experienced it. Check out Kevin’s blog and follow him on Twitter – @eviandrinker.

My goal for this season is to qualify for Kona, a common goal for triathletes who race 70.3 and IMs. It is the mecca of triathlon, the birthplace of the sport that now sees thousands of athletes crossing the finish line every year. Late last year, after IM 70.3 Worlds in Mont Tremblant, my coach talked me into racing IM Texas. Heat and flats aren’t my best friends, but I was excited about racing an IM earlier in the year. I prefer hilly terrain and cold temperatures (who doesn’t like racing in 60ish weather?), but his rationale was that my fitness improved a lot over the year, that we had 6 months to prepare for it, and IM TX, as the NA championship race this year, offered 75 slots (instead of 50 for other IMs). Before this talk, the target race was IM Whistler, a course with 7k and 1.5k of vertical climb on the bike and run courses, respectively. In addition, the race can get hot (90 degrees last year), but it is usually a dry heat.

Texas did not go as planned. It was a massive disappointment for me, which made me question why I do this sport. I’ve spent weeks dissecting what happened on race day, and though I hate to find excuses, my coach, close tri friends, and myself came to the conclusion that the heat (95 degrees in T2) and humidity (95% at the start, 80% when I reached T2) were probably the culprits of my poor performance to clinch that Kona slot.

But there were other factors that contributed to this failure, factors that I had control over but did not manage well on race day. If I am honest with myself, I should realize that I could have done a much better job working on them in my build up to IMTX to be better prepared for the race. I always question my results, sometimes too much, so I’m using this blog as a brain dump of things I could have done better, and things I will address in my short build up to IM Canada. Hopefully it will pay off this time and hopefully some readers will find it helpful. Here they are…

1)      Lack of self-confidence: Despite the rough NY winter, I’ve had a great build up leading up to TX. I finished 2nd in my AG at Oceanside 70.3, my bike got stronger, and I stayed injury-free. I’ve also made progress in the pool, though these have not shown yet. Despite all that, I started questioning all the work I did 2 weeks before the race, when hay was in the barn. Mentally I was not where I should have been. I did use mental Qs to help me mentally prepare, but I almost immediately annihilated those Qs with negative thoughts. I find myself being easily influenced by others’ past results, or talks, which makes me think that they are better than me, and I lose that fire. This cost me a lot. I probably lost the chance to show what I was really capable of in the 2 weeks before the race. It’s a battle that I struggle with constantly. I can spend hours training hard and right, with high quality and high intensity, but my mental weakness always gets in the way and throws things out of the window.

My solution: I refuse to look at the IMCA start list to see who is racing, and instead will focus on my own race. It intimidates me when it really should excite me to face stiff competition. I have also taped my splits on the bike, on the phone, and anywhere I go frequently to keep the race in mind. This has helped so far, especially when my trainer rides get hard.

2)      A race is NEVER over: At mile 8 on the run of IM TX, I thought I was out of Kona contention, which impacted my morale even more. I couldn’t hear my girlfriend telling me that I was 5th, knocking on the Kona door, and realized after I crossed the finish that I was not too far from it. Had I kept pushing, I am convinced I would have been in a position to fight for it, but I let the little evil inside my head take over.

My solution: Never think a race is over before everyone crosses the finish, whether you are winning or are in balance for a qualification or podium. Keep that inner fire and fight until you cross that finish, because anything can happen. This is one big lesson I took home from my trip to the Lone Star state. It pains me to see that I had to experience it to apply it.

3)      Training right on the trainer: I’ve spent countless hours on the trainer and hit power numbers I’ve never seen before. At TX, however, I had to spend the last 40 miles on the pursuit, being incapable of staying on the aerobars due to a strong pain in my shoulder. Thinking back, I realized that I did not spend a single hour straight on the aerobars while on the trainer. Legs were strong, but my position was not right. It cost me a lot of time and energy in TX, probably more than if I trained at lower wattage but in the aero position during my trainer rides.

My solution: I have decided to do all my trainer rides on the aero, regardless of my power output, to teach my body to accept the position and to be mentally trained to stay aero for long periods of times. It is hard, but it is needed. After weeks focusing on this, my power has dropped a bit, but I can already tell my form is better, and my tolerance for the discomfort that the bars bring is higher. One of my long rides was a testament of the hard work of the past weeks. I was able to ride 3.5 hours on my aero bars, even on the hills where I made a conscious effort to keep my elbows down when my mind asked me to move my hands to the pursuits. It was not easy and the temptation of moving to an upright position was there, but I fought that inner evil voice and stayed mentally involved in my training. I have probably spent 95% of the ride on the aero. I felt a lot more comfortable, without a single pain in my shoulder. I also felt like I was using my quads more efficiently, I was riding more straight, and was able to look up without any tension in the neck. It seems to be paying off. It is a work in progress that I will continue until IM Canada.

See, no aero position!

4)      Dealing with (physical) lows: It’s hard to mimic race conditions during training, but one thing is certain, when you hit a low, it’s always hard to pull yourself out of it (at least for me). I struggled on the run at IMTX for 2 reasons: heat and humidity. But I also struggled because I could not see myself fighting through the low I hit at mile 4 (I fainted at mile 4, only to be woken up by a spectator). I never experienced such struggle before and did not know what to do, or whether I could do it. In hindsight, I think I was more unprepared with the idea of struggling on the run as I did not think I could hit such low. In my mental Qs, I always pictured myself running a decent pace, hurting, but never struggling…1st flaw!

My solution: I’ve changed up the way I approach my runs now. I’ve decided to take any opportunity that Mother Nature gives to do my runs in the heat. And I found one workout that replicated what I experienced at Texas: feeling that my legs could not support my weight, with nothing left in the tank to help. The workout I found was a 13×1 mile repeat with 7min rest. I did it at the local track, and despite the beautiful view, running 52 times in circle on a track for close to 3 hours was mentally challenging. I spiced it up with negative splits for each mile (took 10” off each mile), and finished the last 3 at top speed. The 7min rest breaks down the workout, making you feel invincible on the first 4-5 miles. But as you ask your body for more, the 7min break makes it hard to switch it on. You constantly fire up the engine and shut it down for a long period of time. Halfway through the run, you end up with more rest than actual run time, which makes it even harder. Your legs and body are in this lethargic state for most of the workout (7min break), and you electro shock it by asking it to be ready for a hard set (6:20 pace or faster). I won’t do that for all my long runs, but it was good to mix things up and this workout turned out to pay off, teaching my body how to cope with down times.

Pushing through the pain

A lot of lessons learned from my race in Texas that I know will bear fruits in Canada. Forcing myself to do a thorough analysis of the race has helped me pinpoint things I could have done better and things I should apply in my build up to IMCA. I’m sure it will pay off in one way or another. There always are valuable lessons one can learn from every race. I’ve probably learned more on this race than I have at any other I’ve done. Time to move on and give it my best!

Stay focus and happy training! Feel free to speak out if you shared the same experiences!

Editor’s note: Kevin raced Whistler on July 26th and crushed it! Despite nasty conditions, he stuck to his plan, stayed mentally focused, and punched his Kona card with a 2nd AG and 6th OA amateur placing. Congrats, Kevin!

Punching the Kona card!

STOPP Poor Transition Times!!

By Debbie
June 30, 2015 on 3:51 pm | In Community, From the shop, Nutrition Tips, Product Information, Races, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Team athlete Lori Sherlock. We’re at that point in the season where it may be hard to drop much time on your swim, bike or run, but what about your transition? Often an afterthought, Lori gives us a few tips to help gain some free time. Follow Lori on Twitter – @tightcalves.

Transition is known in triathlon as the 4th discipline for a reason.  It can allow you to gain time on your competitors or allow your competitors to gain time on you.  These 5 simple steps, plus a properly packed transition bag, can help you to streamline your transitions to make them faster and more efficient.

Transition area

Simplify your Transition

Put a lot of forethought into your transition and don’t put out anything that you don’t need. Including items that you are not planning on using will only elongate your transition times.  You should make all of your decisions prior to your race and mentally review what your T1 & T2 will look like.


Your transition area should be a well-organized area with everything readily accessible to you as you are coming out of the water or moving from bike to run.  Using a small towel, or transition towel, to mark your spot is always a good idea.  Get a towel that is bright and unique to help you recognize your transition area and set it apart from everyone else.  All of your necessities should be placed in the order you plan to use them to eliminate any confusion from your transition.  Think TYPE A PERSONALITY when you are setting up your transition area.

Organized area


Every step in transition should be a well-thought-out plan.  This will allow for great execution come race day.  As you are nearing the finish of the swim leg, picture what your transition area will look like and what you need to grab, put on, or eat.  As you are coming to the end of the bike leg you should be thinking about what your next step will be.  Don’t think too far ahead…that can be overwhelming and deleterious to your race performance.  Use mental imagery just as you are finishing each leg to prepare yourself for what is next….bike….run….FINISH LINE!


As our parents, teachers and coaches have always told us:  practice makes perfect!  This motto rings true about transitions, too!  There is a reason that we call this the 4th discipline!!  We take time to build our fitness, practice our swimming, biking and running, we should also be putting in the extra time to practice our transitions.  The clock doesn’t stop for transitions, so this can end up being time lost in our race.  When you are practicing your transitions, try to mimic EVERYTHING EXACTLY AS YOU WOULD DO IT ON RACE DAY.  Set out your transition towel, your bike shoes, run shoes, socks, helmet, sunglasses, nutrition, gloves, whatever you plan on using for the next A-race so that when you get to your transition you know exactly what you want to do and the order you want to do it.  Consider this “free time” for your next triathlon.

Packing Your Transition Bag:

When you are packing your transition bag, go through your checklist of what you will need from swim-to-bike-to-run.  The amount of stuff that you load up your bag with will probably be dependent upon what distance race you are doing.

A well-packed transition bag

For a sprint triathlon, you should only need the basics:  pre-, during- and post-race nutrition, goggles, swim cap (usually provided by the race but take one just in case), Aquaphor or BodyGlide, bike, cycling shoes (& socks if you choose), helmet, sunglasses, extra tube and the tools to change it, water bottles, running shoes, race belt and hat/visor, Garmin or heart rate monitor (if you train with them).

Olympic/International distance races may require a little more…but not too much.  You would want to add on to your nutrition volume and maybe a wetsuit or speedsuit for the swim.

A half-Iron distance race is going to require a bit more planning and a lot more nutrition.  Your transition bag should include: pre-, during- and post-race nutrition, goggles, swim cap (usually provided by the race but take one just in case), wetsuit or speedsuit, Aquaphor or BodyGlide,  possibly cycling shorts (depending on comfort on the bike), bike, cycling shoes (& socks if you choose), helmet, sunglasses, cycling gloves (for comfort), spare tube x 2 and the tools to change it, water bottles, running shoes, tri shorts if you want to change, race belt and hat/visor, Garmin or heart rate monitor (if you train with them), salt/electrolyte tabs.

Iron-distance races are a whole different ball-game.  Though there are transition areas, your gear is usually in a bag that you have to go through at T1 & T2.  This makes it even more important to plan as you normally turn your bag in the day prior to your race….so check and double check that all of your necessities are in the bag before you turn it in.  Everything that you need for the half-iron distance you will need for the Iron-distance plus a bunch more nutrition and maybe a few more ‘comfort items’.  You will also need a pump (unless you plan on using one provided at the race venue or borrowing one from a fellow competitor) and maybe some chain lube if you want to freshen up your chain before you take off.  You should probably be wearing your racing kit…and maybe some slip-on shoes that could be tossed if the walk to the swim entry is a little rough.  You may also want to pack some post-race clothing or something warm if the weather is threatening.  If you feel like you need someone to go over your list with you can check out

After compiling this load of stuff into one HUGE transition bag, you will need to organize it perfectly at your race site.  Rule of thumb:  DON’T BE A TRANSITION HOG!  Only use the space directly in front of or next to your bike (depending on transition set-up) so that you don’t infringe on another competitor’s transition space.

Race-to-Race Just in Case Bag:

This is a zip-lock bag that you keep stocked and in your transition bag for all of those just in case moments.

-          Small pair of Scissors

-          First Aid supplies (Band-Aids, antiseptic wipes, tape)…just in case

-          Black Sharpie Marker

-          A copy of your USAT card

-          Safety Pins

-          Sun Screen & Lip balm

-          Aquaphor or BodyGlide

-          Extra Nutrition

-          Clean-up kit (travel size soap, wash cloth, deodorant, comb or brush)

-          Extra race belt

-          Extra goggles (one thing that people have a tendency to forget a little too often)

-          Duct tape/black electrical tape

-          Empty water bottle (another frequently forgotten item)

IRONMAN™ Triathlon Training Tips from a Seasoned Veteran

By Debbie
April 8, 2015 on 12:52 pm | In Athlete Profile, Nutrition Tips, Product Information, Races, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by longtime TriSports athlete Karin Bivens. With many IRONMAN™ races under her belt, she is well-versed on training and racing. Check out her top 10 tips to ensure you are well-prepared for your next attempt at the full distance. Check out Karin’s blog or follow her on Twitter – konakarin.

As a 10-time IRONMAN™ finisher, including 5 IRONMAN™World Championships and a 3rd place podium finish in Kona in 2009, I was recently asked for training tips by someone who  was planning to sign up for his first IRONMAN™ (Arizona) since, as he put it, I was a “seasoned veteran!” I was somewhat surprised and also flattered that he would value my input. I thought about it and here are my Top 10 Tips for IRONMAN™ training:


      • Although you do need distance, put in the speed work, too.  I did some Time Trials which really helped me push my pace under race conditions.  If you don’t want to sign up for a Time Trial race, you can measure a 20K and/or 40K stretch of road (typical Time Trial distance) and then periodically (i.e., once every 2 or 3 weeks) do your own Time Trial and try to better your time.
      • Bike with stronger people – I tend to do the hard rides (trying to include hills) with fast riders on all kinds of days (windy, hot, etc.).
      • Welcome the wind – let the wind be your training friend!  The wind will make you strong and also confident that you can handle it.

      Karin heading out on the bike


            • I had the good fortune to hear Bob Seebohar speak ( – Dietitian for Olympians, elite athletes and mere mortals).  He indicates that much of the G.I. distress that athletes encounter is not because they eat too little, but because they eat too much!  He emphasizes training your body to utilize its own stored energy.  I use his book, Metabolic Efficiency Training, as a guide. Another great book of his is Nutrition Periodization for Athletes.
            • Personally, I do better with “real food” and try to avoid or at least minimize products with ingredients I cannot pronounce.
            • Most of my solid nutrition is on the bike.  I eat the bars and gels that consist of real food without all the additives.  In my bike Special Needs Bag, I pack a peanut butter and honey sandwich (cut into quarters) and really look forward to ingesting something other than nutrition bars and gels.  One year at IRONMAN™ Canada, I stopped to get my sandwich from my Special Needs Bag and there was Sister Madonna Buder eating her sandwich.  When I asked her what was on it, she replied, “Peanut butter and a pickle!” So eat something that works for you.  I would, however, advise against putting something in your Special Needs Bag that could spoil (I’ve heard of people putting a Big Mac in their Special Needs Bag and wondered how safe it was to eat after sitting there all day and often in hot weather). I also carry my preferred Electrolyte drink on the bike and pack a frozen bottle of it in my Special Needs Bag which helps keep it cooler.
            • On the run I tend to stick mostly with liquids (water, electrolyte drink) and gels. Do find out what electrolyte drink will be served on the course and train with it! It is difficult to pack enough of your preferred drink for the entire race.  Also, there is a possibility that you could lose your nutrition/drink.  At IRONMAN™ France, my Bike Special Needs Bag could not be located!  My system hasn’t always favored the electrolyte drink served on the course, but training with it helps, as well as putting a small amount over a cup of ice or else just diluting it.  You can pack some of your preferred drink in your Special Needs Bag, but you still may need to drink what is on the course.   I found that sipping some Coke over ice can be a real pick-up and can be settling to the stomach!  I remember doing St. Croix 70.3 and Chris “Macca” McCormack was volunteering on the run course handing out Coke (after he finished the race).  He told me, “Take some as it will give you FAST LEGS!”

            3) WORK ON TRANSITIONS!

            • This is “free time!”  I have friends who have missed out on the podium, even though they swam, biked and ran faster than their opponent. They lost it in transitions. There are lots of good videos online about efficient transitions.
            • Take advantage of transition clinics.  You are bound to pick up some small tip that can save time.
            • Train for transitions.  I keep my bike in the garage with my helmet/gloves on the aerobars and my bike shoes next to the bike.  Whenever I head out on the bike, I put on my shoes while standing so that I become efficient at this.  My husband will sit down in a chair to put on his bike shoes and then in a race, he still needs to sit down to put on his shoes.  This takes more time and often space is tight at the bike rack, so learn to put on your shoes while standing.

            Practice standing while putting on your bike shoes


            • I am not a particularly fast swimmer, but I have learned to become efficient and come out of the swim without wasting too much energy and am ready to bike.  If you can, join a Masters swim program.  It will really help.  Swimming is so technique-based that you might want to consider taking some lessons to make your swim more efficient.  You can also read books or watch videos on swim technique (, or some of the videos by Dave Scott) or, if possible, take a Total Immersion clinic.
            • Practice sighting as you will need it to make sure you are on course.
            • Practice bi-lateral breathing.  I favor breathing on my right side and am more comfortable on swim courses that are clockwise but that isn’t always the case and sometimes things like wave action can make breathing on the other side more desirable.  It also can help balance out your stroke.  Your head/neck can get pretty tired of turning the same way for 2.4 miles.

            5) VARY YOUR RUN TRAINING.

            • When I trained for my first triathlon (with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Team-in-Training”), I was extremely fortunate to have a Pro triathlete (Tim Sheeper) as a coach.  He said to regularly run coming off the bike, even if it is just for 10 minutes, to get your legs adjusted to “running after biking.”  Of course, there are days when you have longer runs following the bike and days when you just focus on the run, but get accustomed to running off the bike.
            • I found that doing some shorter running races (i.e., 5Ks, 10Ks) really helped with my speed as there can be a tendency to run long (but slow) distances.  So train yourself to run fast, as well.
            • Run hills – this will help make you stronger. Even if you are training for a flat run, think how much easier it will be, and if it’s a hilly run, you’ll be better prepared than much of your competition.

            Hills, hills and more hills!

            6) RACE!

            • Doing some shorter triathlons and at least one long course race prior to doing the IRONMAN™ will help with experience, training, nutrition, pacing and transitions.


            • Find out what conditions are highly possible on the course.  Train for it.  I cannot tell you how many races I have done where the winds have picked up.  This year at IMAZ, the winds were fierce and there were many DNFs due to missing the bike cut-off. I always think the Pros have it easier as conditions tend to worsen as the day goes on.  By training in wind (refer to the bike tips previously mentioned), you will better be able to deal with them.  The same goes for heat.  If it is likely to be hot on race day, train for heat.  Heck, train for heat even if it isn’t usual at that particular event.  One year when I did IRONMAN™ Canada, it was unseasonably hot, but not as hot as training in Tucson, so I had a good race whereas the heat, and the resulting GI distress on the run, had some calling  it “Vomit-man” (yuck)!  You also need to consider the opposite: cold.  Be prepared.  When I did IRONMAN™ Switzerland (held in July), there was a rainstorm and colder temperatures, especially as we biked into the higher elevations.  I remember being cold on the bike but luckily had a cycling jersey in my bike bag (a jacket would have been even more helpful). Consider the terrain.  Is it a flat course?  Technical course?  Hilly course?  Train for it!  If you are planning to do a hilly course, but live in an area where it is quite flat, you may need to bike on a trainer to mimic hill work, or  find the highest point you can (i.e., ramps, bridges) and do repeats or consider another race that is less hilly.  Humidity or lack thereof also plays a role.  Conditions will determine nutritional needs.  I find that in the hotter races, I eat less/drink more and need lots more salt supplements.  So, again, train under a variety of conditions so that you will be better prepared. These races are hard under perfect conditions, throw some unexpected weather in and it can knock you out of the game. Don’t let all that training go to waste…practice!

            8 ) HAVE A PLAN!

            • You cannot just WING it in an IRONMAN™!  Consider hiring a coach.  If you cannot afford a coach, there are training plans online and books on training.  Joe Friel’s The Triathlete’s Training Bible is a great guide… but there are many others out there.

            9) TRAIN ALONE!

            • Although training with faster people can help make you faster and keep you going,  you also need to train alone and tune into your own workout so you don’t get caught up in someone else’s workout or find that you’ve extended yourself when you should have taken an easy day or a recovery workout.
            • Training alone can improve your mental toughness.  In an IRONMAN™, you are basically out there on your own doing your own race.  You will need to dig deep, especially when your body is not saying anything nice!  You can draw from the experience of having trained alone.


            • I’ve often said that the best part of these events is the great people you meet who share a similar lifestyle.  Races often become reunions.  I have made great friends along the way, some in my age group, and when we are racing, we duke it out and push each other to greater heights!  The camaraderie is a bonus of these events!  No matter what the outcome, be thankful of the fact that you are out there!  It’s all good and you learn from every race!

            Great friends made over time

            Tri-ing to Fly With a Bike (or Flying to Tri With a Bike)

            By Debbie
            March 23, 2015 on 3:53 pm | In Community, Employee Adventures, From the shop, Product Information, Races, Random Musings, Sponsorship | No Comments

            This blog brought to you by former TriSports Champion Dan Dezess (former only because his wife now works for us and he gets all the benefits of being part of the team, anyway!). With the race season upon us, many people spend a ton of time researching how to travel with their bike. Ship it? Fly with it? Bike transport? Here’s one man’s experiences flying with his bike.

            I love triathlons and I love to travel. Who doesn’t? Now put the two together and it could be a little intimidating, frustrating and, not to mention, stressful! Questions about how the bike will fare under the scrutiny of TSA inspections, how much it costs to ship and the horror of “what if something happens to it between point a and point b?” race through one’s mind.

            I have done a few “fly-aways” throughout the years and each time I think I have it mastered, I learn something new.

            The first time I flew was for the 2010 Big Kahuna Triathlon in Santa Cruz, CA.   I had just bought a Velo Safe Pro-series Bike Box from I packed it with care, making sure that nothing could move which could damage the bike. Flying to San Francisco was fine. Coming back, however, I found that the company outsourced by TSA to inspect baggage did not re-secure the tool bag I had packed in the box. Lesson learned – do not put excess items in the bike box!  What if it had shifted during the flight or handling and had damaged the bike? Shudder!

            TRI ALL 3 SPORTS Velo Safe Pro Series Bike Case

            In July of 2011 while packing for Ironman Racine 70.3, I felt like I had a handle on the travel thing. Again the box was packed with care, foam padding and all. After some thought, I also decided it couldn’t hurt to place a nice little note inside asking them to please re-secure the items and thanking them for keeping us safe. A little kindness could go a long way.

            All was well until I boarded the airplane. As I sat down and looked out the window, I saw, much to my horror,  the airline baggage handler grab the box (which was upside down on the cart) and flip it end over end onto the conveyer belt, landing on its side and up into the airplane. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I dreaded what I would find upon landing.

            Those dang baggage gorillas!

            We arrived in Detroit and I anxiously made my way to baggage claim. I found the box and opened it. The bike was fine, but the wheels were no longer secured.  The end result was a nick in each race wheel about the diameter of a pencil eraser. I immediately went to the airline baggage office to file a claim, but was told that I needed to do that at the home airport.  Fortunately, I was able to patch the wheels with fiberglass filler. Meanwhile, my wife and I researched what we needed in order to file a claim. We had all of our ducks in a row, or so we thought.

            Back in Tucson, we went straight to the airline baggage office to file. To make a long story short, the airline denied responsibility despite the fact that we had photos showing the box being mishandled.  They stated they were not responsible for damage done due to my lack of making sure it was safely packed. Lesson #2 learned – pack your wheels in wheel bags, or a separate wheel box,  and do not expect the airline to pay for damages.

            Playing it safe with a Wheel Safe

            Determined to finally master the art of traveling with a bike, I invested in a wheel box and decided to fly non-stop from a larger airport nearby to lessen the number of times the box would have to be moved, and thus reducing the chance of it being man-handled. At baggage check in Phoenix, on the way to the 2012 Ironman New Orleans 70.3, I was happy to see that the workers recognized that it was a bike box and knew it contained fragile cargo. Finally a problem-free trip!

            After New Orleans, I read about a product called Albopads in a triathlon magazine. They are re-useable pads with Velcro that you attach to the bike frame during transport.  I decided to ditch most of the worn Styrofoam padding in favor of the newer, less bulky pads.

            It's like the snowsuit on the little kid in "A Christmas Story," only for your bike!

            I used the same non-stop flight strategy to travel to Ironman Steelhead 70.3, again with much success. Flying conquered. Piece of cake!

            Just when you think you know it all, though, something happens.  I checked in for my flight for the Rocketman 70.3 in Orlando. Not quite a non-stop flight, as it stopped in Saint Louis, but at least we got to stay on the same plane.  All was well until my wife and I had to stop near where over-sized baggage was manually inspected. I was rummaging through my backpack when I overheard the TSA baggage inspector tell the other inspector, “We have a HAZMAT.”

            Being a firefighter, I knew what HAZMAT meant and was a very alarmed. I looked over and them standing around my open bike box. Oh no. I wracked my brain trying to think of what I could possibly have packed that could cause such panic. What if the airport was shut down? Yikes!  It turned out it was the CO2 cartridges. They are apparently banned by the FAA from being transported on aircraft.  I had never heard of that before, but now I know not to pack them. Ever.

            Just when you think you think you have the game figured out, you get thrown another curveball. Live and learn. I can deal with all that, though, as long as the bike gets there safely!

            An Interview with a Future Triathlete

            By Debbie
            February 24, 2015 on 2:32 pm | In Athlete Profile, Community, Races, Random Musings, Sponsorship | No Comments

            This blog brought to you by Meredith Yox, TriSports Champion and super-mom. Youth races are popping up all over, but what do you tell your young’un when they ask you about it? Here’s your chance to let them hear about it from the perspective of another kid.  Check out Meredith’s blog and follow her on Twitter – @cabullydogs.

            Sydney Yox is a nine year old fourth grader who, after three years of competitive running and swimming, decided to try her first triathlon last August. The following is an interview conducted with her after completing her first triathlon.

            Sydney Yox pre-race

            Why did you decide to try triathlon?

            When I saw my Mom do all the triathlons and she told me how it was and how she did, it sounded fun. Then my Mom asked me if I wanted to try a triathlon since I had gotten comfortable on a two wheel bike, and I did.

            How were you feeling before your first one?

            I was feeling really nervous. I was trying to focus on one thing at a time and how it would all work out. How I would run and what it would be like to do it all.

            Did you have any plan before the race?

            My Mom told me to focus on one thing at a time. The swimming first, then focus on the biking when I was on the bike, and then focus on the run during the run. So that’s what I did.

            How did you feel when you finished the swim?

            I didn’t have a cramp, and I didn’t feel tired. So I said to myself, “Okay.  Focus on the bike now!”

            How was transition?

            It was really hard because I was all wet, and it was hard to dry off and get my helmet on over my pony tail. It also was really hard when I came back because someone had put their bike in my spot.

            How did you feel on the bike?

            I didn’t feel too bad.  I didn’t feel tired.  But I was scared because there were bumps in the road, and I was scared I would fall. But I was able to do it.

            Once you made it to the run what was going through your head?

            My body was saying, “You’re almost done.  You’re almost there!  You haven’t stopped yet, and you haven’t slowed down.  You’re almost at the finish, and you can do it!”

            Sydney killing it on the run (and sporting a 2XU Girl's Active TriSuit)

            How did it feel to cross the finish line?

            I felt really good because I had just completed my first triathlon! I was really tired, and my throat was sore from breathing too hard. I felt proud of myself when they gave me my medal.

            What’s your favorite part about multi-sport events?

            I really like the biking because it’s easier than the swimming and running.

            Now that you have completed one triathlon and one duathlon what’s next?

            The SuperKid triathlon in Santa Cruz, CA.

            If you met another kid who was thinking about doing a triathlon what would tell them?

            Don’t be nervous, you’re going to be great! It’s actually really fun!

            Sydney post-race with her Mom and 6 year old sister Kylie, who competed in the 6 & under division

            Editor’s note: Is your child interested in trying a tri? TriSports has a whole lot of kid-specific gear. Check it out here!

            Triathlon Actually Began Where?

            By Debbie
            September 18, 2013 on 1:01 pm | In Community, Races, Random Musings, Sponsorship | 1 Comment

            This fun blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Scott Perrine, who is about to compete at the inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe.

            All history ties the roots of Triathlon back to San Diego, CA in the early 1970s, but after spending the last two years in the San Francisco Bay, and on Alcatraz Island completing some concrete restoration work, I believe Triathlon may actually have its roots tied to Alcatraz.  There is even a Triathlon named Escape from Alcatraz which I competed in this year.

            Escape from Alcatraz triathlon

            Not possible you say?  A simple look at the history of Alcatraz and the attempted escape of John Anglin, Clarence Anglin, Frank Morris and Allen West shows many similarities to Triathlon and multi sport.  While a prison escape is obviously not a sport, there is a lot of preparation and dedication required for both, even some failed attempts along the way.

            Start with the preparation.  John, Clarence, Frank and Allen began their planning and preparation in September of 1961, eight months before their attempted escape.  They spent every minute allowable planning and working towards their escape.  Many of us that race long course competition dedicate eight months or more to training.  We focus and plan for the event, training for the worst and hoping for the best.  We spend countless hours focused on that specific event, sacrificing time with friends and family, sleep, etc.

            They created tools to chip away at the concrete in their cells; we continually develop new “aero” equipment to make us go faster.  They designed wetsuits utilizing raincoats to survive the swim through the San Francisco Bay; we continually develop wetsuits utilizing the latest technologies in neoprene to get us through the water faster.

            The first leg of the escape "triathlon"?

            The night of their escape they crawled through the openings they dug in their cells, climbed up through the service corridor to the roof and out to the Northeastern side of the Island and jumped into the water, that is a lot to go through just to go jump in the water.  At the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, you get up early in the morning and head to the race site, set up your transition, get onto a crowded bus and ride over to the ferry, crowd onto the ferry and head over to the Island, then everyone jumps off the ferry and off you go.  Adrenaline is racing as you jump off the boat, imagine what is was like for the guys that night in 1962.

            They jumped into the water in the darkness of night during the incoming tide, fighting the currents and the cold.  Some of their belongings were found washed up on the Shore of Angel Island the next morning.  We jumped into the water during the early hours of the morning sunrise with an outgoing tide, had to cross three different current flows (as well as fight all the other competitors) and a majority of us swam (some washed up) onto the Shore in front of the St Francis Yacht Club.

            The image of freedom

            A few other similarities:

            1. Allen West was unable to fit through the hole he had dug into the wall of his cell and never made it out to meet up with the other three.  The first DNS (Did Not Start)?
            2. The other three were never found.  The first DNF… we will never know?
            3. The FBI closed their case against the three 17 years after they escaped.  In Ironman competition they close the finish line after 17 hours?

            While the original Escape from Alcatraz was not a triathlon in any true sense of the meaning and I have taken some great liberties tying them together, it is fun to compare true history to activities we enjoy in our daily lives.  What triathlons have you done where you can intertwine history with the event in this type of manner?  Give it a try and see how creative you can be…. It will definitely help you get through some of those “dark holes” we sometimes go through during our training and racing!

            Head Games

            By Debbie
            September 11, 2013 on 9:37 am | In Community, Races, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | 3 Comments

            This blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Nicole Ramsbey. Check out her blog at and follow her on Twitter – nicoleramsbey.

            I raced a sprint tri the other weekend and was not in peak form to say the least.  I managed to perform, and perform not too badly, which led me to thinking about a few things.  One of the things I started thinking about was how much of triathlon is physical fitness and how much is mental fitness? At this point in the season when you may be approaching your ‘A’ race, now’s the time to figure it out.

            Finished, and Done

            I guess my first thought was, how many people, when they reach a tough moment, give in to the negative Nancy talk?  I hit many negative points throughout racing, but rarely do I “give in” to those thoughts.  Say you are coming up on a big hill during a sprint tri, you’re maxing out your heart rate and you get halfway up…what’s the first thing that you typically hear in your head?   Is it, “I can’t do this anymore, I have to walk”?  If that’s a typical thought process for you, how do you respond to it?

            If you respond by giving up the race in your mind and walking, then I’d have to say your mental toughness might need a swift kick in the @**.  I may get this thought once in a while, but I immediately counter it with a positive thought.  During the sprint tri, I had my own mental battle, but I won.  Every time a negative thought comes to mind, I always attempt to counter it with a positive.  Last weekend when I hit the hill, I had to remind myself that I can do anything for a mile.  My responses are almost automatic now, and if yours aren’t they will get to be that way if you continually work at it.

            I’d say mental toughness is at least half of triathlon…if you can’t handle the mental stuff then the fitness won’t matter.  Even though you may not be physically fit, if you are mentally fit going into a race, you can still do well.   Imagine the day that you are physically AND mentally fit…you can OWN that day like no other.  Don’t short change yourself, and remember it’s not always about how many miles you’ve logged.

            Race with a Smile

            The Geology of Choosing Your Race

            By Debbie
            August 1, 2013 on 3:25 am | In Races, Random Musings | 1 Comment

            This fun blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Liz Miller (who also happens to be a geologist). Check out her blog at and follow her on Twitter – FeWmnLiz.

            What factors do you consider when signing up for races? How close the race is to where you live? Or whether the race destination would also make for a good vacation? Most triathletes like to plan and give careful consideration to every race that we sign up for, but sometimes even the best-laid plans can get sidetracked. Just in 2012, the Oschner Ironman 70.3 New Orleans swim was cancelled due to unsafe water conditions, and the bike course at Boise 70.3 was shortened to just 12 miles due to SNOW on the course (in June!). Some of the pro men even rode in their wetsuits, due to the 47 degree air temperature! But the chance of cold weather or choppy water isn’t the only thing that you should consider when signing up for your next race. I’d like to propose another factor to consider – geology! I know this is a triathlon blog, but how about we “switch gears” and talk some science.

            I should preface this blog post by pointing out that geology has indeed affected some Ironman races in the past. Just 6 days before the 2006 Ironman World Championship race in Kona, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck the island. Reports say that in the days before the earthquake hit, Kona was unusually hot and humid, and in the days after the earthquake, the area got slammed with torrential downpours. On the day of the race, skies were overcast and winds were light – a beautiful day for racing. But, at about 7:20 PM, a torrential downpour happened on Ali’i Drive. Some athletes had to wade through knee deep water just to make it to the finish line. Within an hour the downpour had stopped and the water receded. So earthquakes really can affect your race, even if the quake doesn’t actually happen on race day!

            Now, in order to determine which races are safer (geologically speaking), we need a quick geology introduction. The Earth’s outer shell is made up of plates which are constantly moving. Most geologic activity occurs as a result of the interaction between these plates. There are three types of plate boundaries:

            1. Convergent boundaries are boundaries where plates collide. At these boundaries, plates are colliding to form mountain ranges, or one plate is diving down beneath the other plate in a process called subduction.

            2. Divergent boundaries are boundaries where two plates are moving away from each other. Magma can rise to the surface at divergent boundaries, forming new crustal material.

            3. Transform boundaries are boundaries where two plates slide past each other. As the plates slowly move past one another, pressure builds until the plates rupture in one big movement, causing an earthquake. The San Andreas fault in California is a transform boundary and is responsible for the frequency of earthquakes in California.

            Here’s the United States Geological Survey’s simplified map of plate tectonics; the red arrows indicate plate direction. Arrows pointing towards each other represent convergent boundaries; arrows pointing in opposite directions represent divergent boundaries; arrows that are side-by-side represent a transform boundary.

            USGS Plate Map

            The other geologic hazard that should be considered before registering for a race is hot spots – the kind formed by liquid hot magma, not the painful ones on your feet at the end of a marathon. Hot spots are areas where magma is able to make its way up to the surface and form volcanic features. The Hawaiian Islands are one of the best known examples of hot spot volcanism – these islands have formed as the Pacific Plate moves over the Hawaiian hotspot. AND hot spots can also experience seismic activity.  In the image below, the Hawaiian Island chain is visible in the center of the picture; this chain has formed as the Pacific Plate has slowly moved over the Hawaiian hot spot.

            Hawaiian Hot Spot

            Now, let’s compare the geologic maps to TriMapper’s map of Ironman races around the world.

            Ironman Race Map

            The Australian races are probably safe. Australia sits on a large plate of its own, and the plate boundaries are a significant distance from the continent itself. Ironman New Zealand could be problematic – the plate boundary runs right through the north and south islands! The earthquake that hit Christchurch in 2011 was in February, and Ironman New Zealand is typically early March. Japan is also at risk, since it is located on a plate boundary. In 2011, a very large earthquake hit Japan, causing tsunamis, structural damage, and a nuclear release. I wouldn’t want to be racing in that environment! Additionally, Japan has historically had some of the largest earthquakes, causing the most damage and casualties.

            Most of the North American races are in the clear, except for Ironman Canada – Whistler is located near the triple junction of the North American plate, Juan de Fuca plate, and Pacific Plate.

            The Ironman races in Mexico aren’t looking too promising – Cabo San Lucas is near the triple junction of the North American plate, Cocos plate, and Pacific plate, and Cozumel sits pretty close to a plate boundary too. In fact, the United States Geological Survey calls Mexico one of the world’s most seismically active areas. But further to the south, Ironman Brazil looks to be in the clear, since Brazil is located near the center of the South American plate.

            Ironman South Africa and Lanzarote are both centrally located on the African plate and are probably safe bets.

            Some of the European races might be a little risky – Ironman Wales and UK are probably far enough away from a plate boundary, as well as Ironman Kalmar and the Ironman European Championship. But Ironman Switzerland, Austria, and France are getting a little close to the Eurasian and African plate boundary.

            So, out of 29 Ironman events worldwide, at least 8 Ironmans are located at or near plate boundaries. That’s nearly 30%! Not to mention the fact that the Ironman World Championship race is located on an island that is still being formed by an active volcano. I certainly won’t complain about making it to Kona one day to race, but in the meantime, I might stick with the North American races (or convince my boyfriend to buy a plane ticket to Australia…).

            Here’s a map of all the Ironman 70.3 races – I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which races are safer than others!

            70.3 Race Map

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